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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Expensive Chicken Feed - Frozen Fish

Winter of 2012-13 in Utah set records for cold. Particularly in January when the temperature went below zero with sad regularity. For various family reasons I spent all of January in the east, ranging from Florida to Puerto Rico to New York City. I experienced some cold in Manhattan but not the hard, killing freeze that settled over Utah. My son tried valiantly to keep the greenhouse running. The propane heater and charcoal brazier proved inadequate. Even burning hardwood in the chimenea couldn't cut the cold entirely, then the greenhouse door froze shut. A brief spell of temperatures above freezing allowed my son to view the damage. A 140 gallon block of ice with fish suspended in it filled the fish tank. Most of the primrose plants survived and we now see blooms on some of them. The mint is shooting out green leaves. My enterprising son, unwilling to deal with a quantity of dead fish as spring approached, found a novel way to use the frozen fish and water in the fish tank. he chipped out the fishy ice and let the three hens we keep for eggs work their will with it. The chickens, omniverous eaters that they are, enjoyed the frozen fish and their eggs likely provided a lot of omega 3 fatty acids. The previous winter I had insulated my water pipes and taped electrical warming lines along them but I rearranged the plumbing last fall and made the mistake of failing to restore the insulating tubes and the warming lines that kept the system from freezing last year. In review, I purchased too many fingerling trout. As they grew larger, they overstressed the system. At least they provided a tasty treat for the chickens. This winter wasn't a complete disaster, some of the plants survived. None of the more important parts of the system failed. We restored the flood and drain system and soon I will plant the grow beds with various less hardy plants as spring comes on. We plan to add some snails to the fish tank and I will gradually add a few fish, either trout or gold fish. I don't plan to disturb the ecology of the various growing systems which have been through two growth seasons so far. It seems wise to augment the plants with a bit of fertilizer along with the chelated iron I use whatever number of fish I have and not try to keep a lot of fish. I engage in aquaponics more for plants than fish as well as the water storage/saving that is part of the system.